Letters From Home

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My cousin the President

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Barack Obama 44th President of The United Stat...

Image by Renegade98 via Flickr

Last year sometime I idly put one of my maternal great-great-grandfathers’ names into a Google search, just to see what turned up. What turned up was Barack Obama’s family tree.

No, we don’t share a relative that close.  I did some figuring, though, and as it turns out, Barack Obama’s mother and I are tenth cousins, whch means my kids are Obama’s 11th cousins.  That’s good enough for me!  We are all descendants of Nathaniel FitzRandolph, who lived in the mid 17th century.

My branch of the FitzRandolph family scooted across the border from New Jersey to New Brunswick come the Revolution, and left behind lands on which Princeton University (and the FitzRandolph Gate) sit today.  They were Canadian forever more, or at least until my grandmother re-crossed the border during WWII and became an American citizen, when my mother was 16.

My mother was delighted to hear about this relationship and I know she would have voted enthusiastically for Cousin Barack had she lived.  My mother took great delight in politics and in activism and she was, for the most part, a progressive.   She would have loathed Sarah Palin, you betcha.

I expect my grandmother would have felt the same way.  I bet she’s already bustled up to Obama’s grandmother and welcomed her long-lost cousin to a happy afterlife.

My dad’s parents had many good and admirable qualities, but they were Republicans to the core and racists to boot.  The thought of them spinning in their graves right now makes me happy.

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Author: infmom

Otherwise known as Infamous Mom.

6 Comments

  1. Wow infmom..you really have wonderful history of the FitzRandolphs. My husband would be related to you. His Great grandfather was Allan FitzRandolph…Myra and Helen’s oldest brother. I too have a portrait of Amira & I think one of Myra. I have a couple more that I’m still trying to figure out who they are.

    • I am always thrilled to meet relatives I didn’t know I had! Our family was rather isolated when I was growing up and we only really got to know my dad’s sister’s daughter, our only first cousin. It’s only been in recent years I’ve found out what an extensive family I’ve had all along and never knew.

  2. Hello, Andrew! What a fascinating project! I hope it will be aired on BBC America because it’s just the kind of thing I love to watch.

    Myra FitzRandolph Eaton was my great-grandmother, and Helen FitzRandolph, known as Nell, was her sister. When Myra married Vernon Eaton, Nell came to live with them, and remained with them for many years. When Vernon’s company was sent to Europe to fight in WWI, Nell, Myra, and the household packed up and moved to England, which the FitzRandolph side of the family considered to be “home” even though they’d lived in New Brunswick since the time of the American revolution.

    Myra and Vernon Eaton had two daughters, Helen and Evelyn. Helen married Sir John Dashwood, and her mother and aunt came to live with them at West Wycombe, which is why they are buried together in the churchyard. I’ve only been to West Wycombe once, in 1971, when I was going to school in London. I took some photos of that tombstone while I was there.

    Evelyn Eaton, my grandmother, had quite a career as a novelist, poet, and war correspondent. If you can locate a copy of her autobiography The Trees and Fields Went the Other Way in a library, that will give you a bit more of the story of her life and her family’s. Her collections of short stories Every Month Was May and The North Star is Nearer have some lovely remembrances of “Aunty Nell.”

    My son Daniel Vernon was born sixty years almost to the day after his namesake was killed at the battle of Vimy Ridge.

    Is there anything else I can tell you?

  3. Hi

    I’m a BBC radio presenter/producer. I’ve been working on a programme proposal concerning bringing alive gravestones in churchyards in the UK.

    This afternoon, in pouring rain, I visited a churchyard near High Wycombe and came across a gravestone for Helen Fitz Randolph and Myra Eaton, wife of Vernon Eaton who died in the Great War – Myra was also clearly a Fitz Randolph. Imagine my surprise to discover this page!! Can anyone please help me bring alive the story of Helen, Myra and Vernon?

    Vernon has an excellent online biography, thanks to the Canadian armed forces, but I’m sure there’s much more to find!

    Thankyou!!!

    Andrew Green
    gardengreen333@yahoo.co.uk

  4. Hello to another relative! And thanks for your comment!

    We have a portrait of Almira FitzRandolph holding infant Myra FitzRandolph (my great-grandmother). My mother bequeathed it to my daughter, who’s always loved it. For right now, it’s in storage pending restoration (it definitely shows its age).

    Amazing people, we FitzRandolphs. 🙂

  5. Great comments ! I am 83 years old & feel the same as you ( you betcha!). My wife & I and all of our 5 children & spouses & most kinfolk voted Obama. I have always had an affinity for Princeton because of the family FitzRandolph connection ( & because my daughter was class of ’92). I grew up looking at circa 1830 portraits of Phebe FitzRandolph & husband George H. Stout in my parent’s dining room which later hung in my own. They are now on loan at Blithewold mansion built by the man who gave the FitzRandolph Gates, Augustus Stout Van Wickle : they can be seen on Blithewold’s home page.

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